Reviews - dos and don'ts

by Helen Hollick

Getting a Review – what to do and what not to do

You've written your book, and now you want reviews?

Approaching a Reviewer.
So you’ve decided to ask one of the respected online Bloggers to review your book. Great. 
  • Study the blogs. It is no good sending your lovingly produced historical novel to a reviewer of crime thrillers or horror. 
  • Have a look to see if there is a Guidelines for Submission page – and if there is do as the guidelines guide! If it says send two chapters, send two chapters, not four. If it says post a hardcopy book, don’t send an e-book.
  • Of course there is nothing stopping you from completely ignoring the guidelines – except I doubt your book will be reviewed!
  • If the blogger has posted his or her name - Book Reviews by Anne Blogger - then don't address your initial enquiry as Dear Sir, or Dear Sarah. (it does happen!)
  • Make sure your enquiry is professionally typed. A message with spelling errors and i instead of I is not going to make a very good first impression of your ability as an author is it?
  • By all means follow up to see if your book has been received, and maybe a month or so later ask if it has been reviewed, but do not pester. It is a very good way of making sure that your book gets put on the back shelf and is left there.
The Blog Tour and Blog Hop.

These are good ways to get a host of reviews. 
Click here for information about blog tours and blog hops.

What to do if you get a bad review, or bad Amazon Comment... or you don't get the 5* you hoped you would get

So you are a tad disgruntled. What do you do about it? 
In a nutshell. Nothing. If you must respond, then say something like: “Thank you for your comment, I appreciate the time you took to write it.” Or maybe, for a blog tour or similar: “I’m sorry you did not like my novel, but it would be a boring world if we all liked the same things.”
And leave it at that.
(You would be well advised to not make responses on Amazon or Goodreads, though - unless to simply say 'thank you'.)

Do not get into an argument! So this person gave you 1 or 2 stars and picked holes in your book. Big ones. Enormous pits in fact. Maybe the person is right? Maybe your book is riddled with typos, point of view changes, bad grammar and has no concept of continuity? Or maybe this reviewer is just being snotty.

Either way be honest with yourself – is this an honest review? If so take note and do something to correct the errors. If it isn’t honest, if it is senseless sniping – move on. The 'reviewer' is the one who needs to get a life, not you. *see my note below

If you do reply huffily to an honest reviewer, arguing a point, or even complaining (especially rudely,) you will probably never get another review from that person for any future books. (Would you be inclined to review - or even read - a book by someone who had been rude to you?)

We do this reviewing voluntarily, and I do not appreciate being shouted at by an irate author who cannot take on-board that his or her book is not up to standard.

Yes it is disappointing, yes it hurts to get a poor review – but it is much more satisfying to know you made errors, have learnt from them and after putting them right, to know you have ended up with a polished, professionally produced novel that is worth writing – and reading.

But what about star ratings?

Of course we all want 5 stars - of course we all want to be praised and told how well we have done. But life , and writing, is not as easy-peasy as that. Being honest here, most readers look at the 4* reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, not the 5s, especially if the author is unknown or new (and especially if the author is indie) Why? Simple - because often the 5 star reviews are from friends and family. I'm not saying these are not genuine reviews, but let's face it, they probably are a little biased. 

So you have been given a 4 (or even 3 star) review. What do you do?

Ditto above. Nothing. 
If all you expect is to get 5 star rating - sorry but you are in the wrong job. For one reason or another, not everyone is going to like your novel. Do not, ever, email to whinge and complain 'You only gave me 4 stars'. If you do a) do not be surprised to discover the review has been removed or even downgraded b)do not be surprised that the reviewer you attempted to bully (yes, that is what you were doing) never reviews or even reads any future novels of yours c)be aware that all you are doing is making a fool of yourself and showing that you are not a professional. Add to that, do you seriously think the reviewer you had a pop at is actually going to go back and upgrade your novel to a 5*? Would you do so? 
No, thought not.

Finally, if you do get a disappointing review, don't take it to heart. It's funny but writers (and I include myself here) dwell on the poor comments but ignore the good ones.

This is probably because writing is such a solitary occupation. OK it hurts, suck the lemon and move on.

I had to tell one author that his book had been rejected for review because of incorrect formatting. He was, to say the least, disappointed because, actually, the story was very good - just very badly presented.

The following day I sent him another e-mail telling him his earlier published book had been recommended for shortlisting for a potential award. Goes to show, doesn't it?


I have, very rarely, commented on reviews left about my books on Amazon. I do so only in necessary or extreme circumstances. I have commented on poor reviews for books that are now withdrawn from print (because of initial incorrect editing or formatting) and which have been re-edited and re-published. On one recent occasion I have, emphatically, responded to a known 'troll' who appears to be promoting his own proof-reading business by posting detrimental comments. He uses the same format, has been harassing and bullying authors - especially new and novice authors, and even respected publishers, giving 1 or 2 star reviews. 5 star reviews to the books he has proof read though... This person has been 'blacklisted' by ALLi (the Alliance of Independent Authors, and, I believe the Society of Authors. So in this instance, I felt I had every right to respond to his underhand and extremely questionable 'review'. As an established author I was able to do this - I do not recommend new or novice authors tackle this sort of on-line systematic trolling, however.

* * * 
For more tips on writing fiction my Discovering the Diamond may be of use and interest.
Written through experience in order to assist new and novice writers avoid the mistakes I made.

Further articles about Reviews and Reviewers

A new sport? Author bashing
The Dilemma of the Common Comma
Reviewing the Reviewers' Reviews
Reviling the Reviewer
An amusing look at some bad reviews!
From the Judges's Point of View - what Judges look for - and what they reject (useful tips especially for Historical Fiction writers)

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